Little night


All day, the firefly clings unmoving to the double-paned storm door as it swings open and shut. Fast-moving thunderstorms dump rain on the upturned faces of evening primroses; water gurgles in every ditch and draw. On the other side of the world, a young woman whose name means voice or call is shot dead in the middle of the street. Millions watch the cellphone video: rivers of blood spilling from her mouth and nostrils, her wide-open gaze fixed on infinity. Then night descends, the shortest of the northern year, full of cries and fires. I log off around 10:00 and step outside to listen to what seems at first like a restless multitude: the rushing wind and water. Fireflies blown sideways in mid-blink seem to be attempting some form of Morse code.

Seven hours later, as dawn breaks on the solstice, we find a juvenile screech owl perched on a small snag beside a trail, possibly just fledged and not quite ready to fly. Its mother shrieks and clacks her bill at us. I take two flash pictures and move quickly away, anxious not to attract the attention of crows.

screech owl fledgling 2

Farough (or Forugh) Farrokhzad was, by all accounts, one of the greatest Iranian poets of the 20th century. Here’s an English translation of one of her poems that seems appropriate to the moment. It’s from Sin: Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad, translated by Sholeh Wolpe.

The Wind Will Take Us

by Forough Farrokhzad

Inside my little night, alas,
the wind has a rendezvous with the leaves;
inside my little night, there is fear
and dread of desolation.

Hear the darkness blow like wind?
I watch this prosperity through alien eyes.
I am addicted to my despair.
Hear the darkness blow?

This minute, inside this night,
something’s coming to pass. The moon
is troubled and red; clouds
are a procession of mourners waiting
to release tears upon this rooftop,
this rooftop about to crumble, to give way.

A moment,
then, nothing.

Beyond this window, the night quivers,
and the earth once again halts its spin.
From beyond this window, the eyes
of the unknown are on you and me.

May you be green, head to toe—
put your hands like a fevered memory in mine…
these hands that love you.

And cede your lips
like a life-warmed feeling
to the caress of my lovesick lips.

The wind will one day blow us away.
The wind will blow us away.